Vietnam was the first televised war and the horrors that were suddenly present on every newsstand and in every living room in America were jaw-droppingly horrific. American’s reactions were those of anger, shock, and a surge of distrust for the government. Since the Civil War there had not been casualties in war-like numbers on American soil and people had forgotten how it looked. So what has changed between then and now? The answer is an internet savvy population and a higher tolerance for violence.
In a time where Call of Duty reigns supreme, is it really a coincidence that war is more prominent on American soil as a video game than as a living, breathing, nightmare than exists overseas. In April of 2009, for the first time in 18 an American soldier’s funeral was broadcast. The ban of such coverage was established by the first George Bush in 1991 with the notion that it was to respect the privacy of the grieving families. However, only 16 years after Vietnam ended, you have to wonder what the true motivation was.
A government that is “of the people, by the people, for the people” cannot do anything it promises if its constituents are not aware of the facts. Perhaps coming from a family with two reporters as parents has affected my view of the right of the public to have access to the truth, no matter how gory, how upsetting, or how much trouble it will cause for the men behind the curtain. The day the photos from Abu Ghraib were released to the public it was a wake up call to some Americans. The fact is that a good amount of the population knows only the very basic headlines released by the government to the media. “Bush launches invasion of Iraq” “Bush signs spending bill for Iraq” “Mission accomplished” “WMDs?” “Saddam captured!”
American’s are expected to make decisions based off of what is fed to them. However, these decisions are not accidents. They are barely free will. We form opinions that the government wants us to form so we will support their actions. When the public opposed Vietnam it made an awful lot harder on the government to continue to stay overseas. Less information causes less resistance.